Last week, Massachusetts Governor Deval L. Patrick ’78, a Democrat, signed a state-wide redistricting bill that will divide the city of Cambridge into two voting districts.
The Massachusetts constitution dictates that the district lines be redrawn after every census to better reflect the “face of the state.”
Before the bill passed, one Congressman, currently Michael E. Capuano, represented a district that included the entirety of Cambridge and Sommerville and part of Boston. Now, the north portion of Cambridge and a large section of its center will join the 5th district, currently represented by Edward J. Markey.
Some Cambridge politicos were unhappy with the change, because, as City Councilor Leland Cheung told Cambridge Day, “We’d go from being one seventh of a district to one fourteenth.” Additionally, he told Cambridge Day that the interests of Cambridge, a mostly urban area, fall more closely in line with Capuano’s district than they do with Markey’s, which is more suburban.
Cheung said committee members asserted the redistricting approved by the governor made the best effort to fairly represent all areas of the state.
Opposition to the division led a few city representatives to encourage the public to send messages to the redistricting committee in a last attempt to keep the city united. Timothy J. Toomey Jr., a member of the Cambridge City Council, helped sponsor an amendment to the bill that would preserve the unity of Cambridge while still allowing for a minority and a majority district to exist independently, Cheung said. However, the amendment was rejected by the House.
Critics alleged that the 2000 redistricting did not give minority groups the voting power they deserved with respect to their population size. This year’s redistricting aimed to address those concerns.